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Cleveland: On "Sports Dynasty"

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

The term “sports dynasty” brings to mind several teams in several sports over the years.
The Yankees – as in “Break up the Yankees” – will be for many the first to come to mind. That’s what 40 pennants and 27 World Series titles will do for you.
But there are others.
Red Auerbach’s old Boston Celtics were a dynasty. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers were a short-lived one. Tom Landry’s Cowboys were one before being supplanted by Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers. In college sports, we had John Wooden’s UCLA basketball Bruins, Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners of the 1950s and Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide. In Mississippi, we had the University of South Panola and the amazing high school football run.
Don’t look now but the most dominant of all sports dynasties thrives currently, if somewhat under radar. We don’t see or hear about the University of Connecticut women’s basketball Huskies in Mississippi. They are based way up there in Storrs, Conn., and they play a sport that while gaining in popularity still rarely makes the front page of sports sections nationally. But we will hear more and more about UConn in the coming weeks. The success of the Mississippi State women’s team is naturally going to make UConn’s amazing story more prominent here.
To make a really long and impressive story, short, here’s what UConn has achieved in a nutshell:

  • The current Husky winning streak is 91, a national record which broke by one the former record, which, of course, was held by UConn.
  • UConn, coached by Luigi “Geno” Auriemma, has won 11 national championships since 1995, 10 since 2000 and every one since 2013.
  • A Magnolia State way of looking at it: Mississippi State has now won 20 of its last 21 games, the lone loss a 98-38 trouncing by UConn in the NCAA Tournament last March.

Get this: Auriemma, the mastermind, has won 88 percent of the games he has coached at UConn. Bear Bryant won 79 percent of the games he coached. John Wooden won 80 percent of his games. Bud Wilkinson won 83 percent of his games.
And get this: Over the last 10 seasons, Auriemma’s teams have won 350 games and lost 14. That’s a 96 percent success rate. Over the last four seasons, they are 140-1. That’s 99.2 percent. That’s absurd.
If UConn makes the Final Four this season – and “if” in this case is not a big word at all – it will make 10 straight Final Fours for Auriemma and UConn.
And to think, this was supposed to be the year somebody would get UConn. The Huskies lost their three best players – three All Americans – from last season. They began the season ranked No. 3, behind both Notre Dame and Baylor in the AP poll. They have already played both – and beaten both by double digits – this season.
And that’s something else. UConn 91-game win streak includes game after game against the nation’s best teams. Auriemma doesn’t schedule lightly.
By any measure, what UConn has achieved – and continues to achieve – is simply phenomenal.
“They are what we are trying to be,” is the way Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer puts it. They are what everyone is trying to be.
It’s a helluva note for the other 348 teams in NCAA Division I basketball when your ultimate goal is win enough games to face the one team that almost never loses, the UConn Huskies.
Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address isrcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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